Ordered by the great founding king Anawrahta and completed by his successor Kyansittha, Shwezigon's design reflects the influence of both generations. Shwezigon served as a consecrated ground where kings could pray for, or give thanks for, success: the southwestern corner was reserved for such prayers.
King Htilominlo (reigned 1211 to 1235AD), the youngest of five princely sons to King Sithu II, secured his reign by dint of a superstitious ceremony, where the King's umbrella fell to point in his direction. The temple is not the biggest in Bagan, but it surely counts as one of its most beautiful.
King Kyansittha ordered the construction of Ananda Temple, which was completed by 1105AD. Despite the heavy stone and brick that makes up Ananda Temple's structure, the design ingeniously manages to feel well-ventilated and well-lit: vents connecting the hallways to the exterior permit wind and light to circulate in Ananda Temple, keeping the interior pleasant despite the flood of warm-bodied tourists coursing through the hallways.
Bagan's most massive temple was constructed by the tyrant Narathu, who came to the throne by killing his father Alaungsithu, and was later assassinated himself. During his short reign between 1167 and 1171AD, Narathu attempted to avert karma by constructing the tallest temple in all of Bagan. Dhammayangyi is unique for its pyramidal shape, the only such temple in all of Myanmar; the brickwork reflects the impossibly high standards that Narathu set for the artisans who raised it.
Unique among Bagan's temples, Manuha was built by a conquered king living in exile. King Manuha, whose Thaton Kingdom south of Bagan was conquered by the great king Anawrahta in the 11th century, lived his last years under house arrest in Bagan. He sold a ruby ring to raise the funds necessary to erect the temple that now bears his name: a long, four-chambered temple that contains three sitting Buddha images facing east, and a single reclining Buddha image facing west with head facing north.
Shwesandaw is one of only five terraced temples that visitors are permitted to climb, but the views from its five concentric terraces are arguably the best you'll find around Bagan. From the base to the hti at the top, Shwesandaw measures 328 feet; at the upper terraces between 200-300 feet in the air, travelers take in the views of the Ayeyarwady River in the far distance, along with buildings in closer proximity.
6 Must-See Temples in Bagan with Historical Story Background
Fervent believers in Theravada Buddhism, the Bagan kings and their subjects built over 10,000 stupas throughout their metropolis between the 9th and 13th centuries CE. It couldn't last, however, the Kingdom crumbled under Mongol attack in the 13th century. The temples that remain — only a fifth of the original number — only hint at the riches and grandeur of Bagan's heyday.
The temples in this list are recognized to be Bagan's biggest, most scenic, and most popular, and should definitely be included in any Bagan temple-hopping itinerary lasting more than a day.
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